By Christine Mukami, PACE Fellow 2022
The education sector is still struggling to traverse the new curriculum, while the broader picture and objective of this competency-based curriculum has been envisioned to make a positive impact on learning and comprehension, many teachers, parents and concerned individuals have noted a lot of gaps that are in the system since its implementation. Among them is the introduction of technology as a learning area in science. In grade 5 the students are expected to learn how to code but at the same time, many teachers are not well versed to educate the students on the area, as noted during the time I have been in Gachororo Primary.
This second term, I was called upon to teach the science and technology unit in grade 6 using Microsoft Excel. I took up the task, but soon noticed that all the digital computer devices for the pupils don’t have any Microsoft Programs (i.e. excel, word, access, publisher) installed for learning purposes! How are they meant to learn? How are they supposed to cover that learning area? this puts them at a further disadvantage because they are expected to be at the same level as students from well-off schools with proper access to these programs and desktops.
I thought of a few solutions to this problem among them being, to install Microsoft office on the learning kindles but this proved futile as I did not have Administrator Privileges and secondly the latest versions require a monthly subscription of ten thousand Kenya shillings which is not realistic in such a public school where monetary resources are scarce. And the free trial before the subscription did not seem sustainable to serve till later, with the incoming class after the current was done using it.
To teach or learn anything about computers requires practical hands-on learning to grasp every detail. Therefore, it would be vain to just teach the theory part. I opted to facilitate the topic by accessing Excel on the Microsoft website online. I put the class into 13 groups of 5 pupils to get ensure personalized attention to each for a proper grasp of content. Then explained the theory part of it and had them draw it out in their exercise books as illustrated in the textbook. For the practical part, I used a laptop to explain the same to each of the groups. Then I prodded them to try applying some of the functions they had learned on a practice spreadsheet.
Quite a number looked unsure and hesitant about interacting with the device, but I encouraged them to confident enough because making mistakes is also a part of learning. The pupils then showed great enthusiasm to learn more about the program and its functions.
For their end-term project, it was a choice between modeling a heart and creating a Microsoft Excel class inventory record. They chose to do the latter on their digital learning devices in groups. The pupils contributed a small amount for data bundles and started the project. Within a week we were done with the project and most of the class met the expectation of this learning area.
Our education system continues to advance in many digital ways and as is the mission of Pace, all children from these types of communities ought to be equipped with the relevant education on the matter, to be at the same level as other children from well-off schools and communities. What they have learned this term on Microsoft Excel lays a good foundation as they continue to learn more about computer systems in their next education levels.